A TALE OF TRADITIONAL HAND BLOCK PRINTING
From the cultural land of Rajasthan, comes an age old technique of textile printing- THE BAGRU PRINT. The piece of fabric with this exotic print is handcrafted with all the love to nature and inherited traditions. Bagru is acknowledged for its wooden blocks and use of natural colors all around the world. It is totally an Eco-friendly practice.
The admirers of textile handicraft might already heard or know about this beautiful printing technique, but some of you do not. So lets hear the tale and grab more knowledge about this very own heritage textile art–
BAGRU- ORIGIN AND HISTORY
Bagru, is a traditional BLOCK-PRINTING art of Rajasthan, flourished in a small town of “Bagru“at a distance of 30–35 kms from Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. The practice is as old as 400 to 500 years religiously developed and followed by the locals called Chippas who migrated from Sawai Madhopur (Alwar) as nomads and settled themselves in Bagru for livelihood.
Chippa is actually a clan involved in hand-block printing. Their name comes from two Nepal Bhasha words –
- ‘chhi’ -“to dye”
- ‘pa’ -“to leave something to bask in sun”
Bagru town has this especial Chhipa Mohalla (printers’ quarters) where all the work related to textile printing is carried out. Traditional Bagru prints use dark (or colored) patterns on cream or dyed backgrounds. The three-centuries-old tradition of block printing is kept alive and now gained international recognition with the efforts of Bagru artisans.
PICTURES FROM CHIPPA COMMUNITY – https://www.handblockprint.com/
PROCESS OF BAGRU PRINTING
Printing the fabric is a time taking process where the craftsmen bestow all its skill and passion into the textile. The process is completed in various steps like-
- HARI SARANA – This is the first step, where the raw plain cloth is washed with the paste of cow-dung, soda and sesame seeds to make it free from any impurities.
- The cloth is washed and dried.
- HARAD Treatment– The cloth is then soaked in a solution of water and harda — a natural mordant made from the myrobalan fruit to give a yellowish tint to the fabric.
- This produces light cream color background and differentiates it from another dyeing art-‘Sanganer’, always on white ground.
- SUN DRY -The fabric is then dried in the sun. Ample of water and sunshine are prime requirements for the process. (used water is recycled and charged into underground).
- Wooden blocks used for printing are soaked overnight in mustard oil and then washed.
- Printing is done on a wooden table to get neat and tidy stamping.
- Then the dyed fabric is stamped with the beautiful designs known as blocks.
- The dyeing process can be repeated over and over until the desired color is achieved.
- After printing, the cloth is left for drying in the sun for a final touch-up.
BAGRU PRINTING – ALL NATURAL COLORS
Bagru is the classic example of how natural vegetable dyes are still used for printing even in such a commercialized world. Even today, artisan use traditional naturally extracted PLANT BASED PIGMENTS AND DYES for printing the cloth. Usually Bagru prints have ethnic floral patterns in natural colors.
- Blues are made from Indigo dye, stored in dye vats 10 to 12 feet deep.
- Red colors (begar) are created by mixing varying proportions of alum (fitkari), madder and acacia arabica (also called babul gond) for obtaining different hues.
- Alum is used for greys and syahi (fermented waste iron, jaggery, and water) for blacks.
- Greens are obtained from indigo mixed with pomegranate.
- Yellow from dried pomegranate, turmeric and dried flowers of Dhabaria.
Though most colors used in the Bagru printing are Eco-friendly but occasionally non-toxic chemical dyes are used by Chippas to create brighter colors and meet the raising demands.
WOODEN BLOCKS FOR BAGRU ART
Wooden blocks are the actual treasure for a Chippa craftsman which are passed on to generations and are means of transferring the skill of the artisan onto the fabric.
There are three types of blocks-
- GUDH- It is the background block which is generally first stamped.
- REKH- It is an outline block.
- DATTA- These are filler blocks which complete the design.
The blocks or stamps are carved by a carver using drills, chisels, hammers, nails and files on wood following a particular design or motif. Woods like Sagwaan (Teak), Sheesham (Indian Rosewood), or Rohida (sometimes called ‘Desert Teak’ or ‘Marwar Teak’) are often favored to design intricate and detailed motifs.
MOTIFS USED IN BAGRU ART
Bagru motifs are intricate and are developed gradually over a long period of time. They are often inspired by nature, flora, and fauna but geometrical patterns came into existence after Persian influence. Most common Bagru motifs contains:
1. Flowers and birds:
Traditionally called as Bada Bunta, Bankadi, Hajura, Bewada, Hara Dhania, Kel, Aath Kaliyan.
2. Inter-twisted tendrils:
These are used as ‘bels’ example Chota Bel, Kalam kali etc.
3. Trellis designs:
Developed under Persian influence. These are popularly called jals in Bagru. Such motifs cover the entire body of the cloth. They are without
4. Figurative designs:
These are animal, bird and human motifs, e.g., ‘hiran’ (deer), mayur’ (peacock), ‘sua’ (parrot).
5. Geometrical designs:
These are geometrical in shapes, e.g. ‘Leheriya’ (wave), ‘chaupad’ (check), ‘kanguras’ (triangular), ‘chatais’ (woven) pattern etc.
TYPE OF FABRIC FOR BAGRU PRINT
Most common type of cloth for Bagru printing and dyeing is cotton and similar materials like:
* Mulls or mulmul – Muslin in English. It is a fine soft cotton.
* Lattha -Type of cotton.
* Handloom fabrics– Cloth weaved without the use of any electricity.
* Dosuti fabrics– High grade quality handloom fabric.
* Khaddar cloth – Rough textured fabric
They are all Eco-friendly fabrics, therefore some extra care is required to keep the prints last longer. Washing them in cold water, avoid direct sun exposure and some other tips can keep them safe.
Read more about DEALING WITH NATURAL PIGMENTS here.
BAGRU IN CONTEMPORARY FASHION
With the inclination of the common public towards hand-printed and handcrafted textiles, Bagru is no more a part of the mere local community rather gained much appreciation in local and international market. The fabulous prints are highly used in contemporary fashion. They are no more confined to ghagra-choli and evolved into contemporary fashion in pants, skirts, jackets and modern apparels.
Other than fashion, Bagru prints are immensely used in enhancing the home decor with furnishings like bedsheets, cushions, quilts, curtains etc.
So you see how amazing is this to find the traditional textile art keep its mark up in the modern market. Each fabric that is passionately crafted with natural materials, vibrant colors, stunning patterns, rhythmic patterns and intricate workmanship brings the warmth of uniqueness to every beholder.
We must be obliged to the craftsmen of Bagru as their passion and love to their heritage keeps alive the cultural identity of this small village called Bagru and their exquisitely carved fabrics adds to the cultural heritage of India.
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